Abortion Amid Coronavirus Outbreak: What You Need To Know

Several right wing politicians have dismissed abortion pills and proceedures as non-essential. This move angered healthcare workers, activists and organisations working towards legalizing abortion, who have all protested the decision legally with lawsuits and letters. 

The American Medical Association (AMA) made it clear that they support access to abortion and believe that physicians should make these decisions, as opposed to politicians. A piece written by reproductive health experts in the journal Contraception suggested that women should stop visiting clinics for abortion during the pandemic, especially because prior research shows tests and ultrasounds are not necessary for successful abortion via pills. 

Disrupting access to healthcare during a sensitive time might turn detrimental for pregnant patients. A few governors have only put an end to surgical abortion done at a later stage, while others have banned both medication and surgery. Ohio, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma are currently tackling litigation challenging the governors’ direction restricting abortion-care amidst the pandemic.

As per the Guttmacher Institute, 18 states prohibit prescription of abortion pills via telemedicine. This has not stopped women from aborting and making their own decisions by consulting a physician through telehealth facilities. In general, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania sees about 800 abortions every month, either through surgery or medication. Before the pandemic, 55 percent of that number was abortion pills, whereas the number has now shot up to 65 percent. 

Planned Parenthood in conservative midwestern states has also seen an increase in telemedicine-abortion. Iowa noted a 33 percent increase in abortion via pills since the pandemic started. The organisation used to previously fly doctors to South Dakota to perform abortions, but this was not possible due to social disntancing restrictions and travel bans. 

Worldwide advocates of reproductive health have shared their worries regarding America's approach. The U.N. Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls expressed concern when U.S. officials categorically stated that they wanted to take out references to “sexual and reproductive health and its derivatives” from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) on the COVID-19 pandemic. A letter was sent by them on May 18 to the UN Secretary-General.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for not easing the sale of mifepristone amidst the health crisis, which is otherwise required to be administered by a physician in a clinical setting.  

Abortion Women in 27 states are required to wait a specified period of time of 24 to 72 hours before the abortion can be performed. Joshua Sazon/Unsplash